Bentley on our side?

Comments

  • I started looking at that a few days ago and couldn't find any straight answers on what is free software and what is closed. I'd love to understand it, but doubt that it's really free software.

  • RobRob
    edited November 8

    This article by the founder of Bently Systems might be relevant: https://aecmag.com/digital-twin/digital-twins-the-case-for-open-source/

    This article argues that the technology platform for digital twins has to be free and open source, because of the large number of vendors that will be involved. Bentley Systems offers iTwin.js as a free, open source platform technology. I suspect that Bentley’s platform focuses primarily on infrastructure projects.

    The concept of digital twins will be applied differently in different market segments. In infrastructure projects, it will involve bespoke IoT sensors. In industrial projects, it will involve Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition or SCADA systems. Commercial and institutional buildings will leverage the thousands of points already being installed as part of the Building Management, Fire Alarm, and Security Systems. I am not sure that digital twins are relevant in the residential market.

    A digital twin allows for simulation, optimisation, and diagnostics. Some very smart people are working on innovative applications for digital twins using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. But for these applications to be practical, they need to have an open, vendor-neutral, comprehensive platform to support them.

    An IFC database is like a photograph, whereas an IFC database combined with real-time data is like a movie. An IFC database is a building model, whereas an IFC database combined with real-time data is a digital twin. Although an IFC database is comprehensive enough to address the needs of the AECO industry, it is still missing real-time and historical data that comes from the Building Management, Fire Alarm, and Security Systems that are already being installed in commercial and institutional buildings.

    Though each commercial or institutional building may have many thousands of points of real-time data, there are no standard naming conventions for these points. This lack of consistent naming conventions means that it is difficult to take simulation, optimisation, and diagnostics algorithms and apply them to actual buildings. Efforts such as Brickschema are working on strategies to address this problem of inconsistent naming conventions in commercial and institutional buildings. Brickschema is free and open source; that is very important. Basic support for Brickschema has recently been added to the BlenderBIM Add-on.

    Looking into a crystal ball, the IFC specification could be expanded to link to Brickschema or something similar, and this could create a platform for digital twins for commercial and institutional buildings. The IFC schema already has many sensor types defined, but nobody seems to have leveraged it yet; perhaps there is an opportunity here.

    The digital twins market for commercial and institutional buildings is still being defined. It will be interesting to see if iTwin.js, or an expanded version of IFC, or something else, ends up being the free, open source technology platform for digital twins for commercial and institutional buildings.

    GorgiousJanFNigelCadGiru
  • @duncan said:
    I started looking at that a few days ago and couldn't find any straight answers on what is free software and what is closed. I'd love to understand it, but doubt that it's really free software.

    Have worked with I-twin, implemented in process industry(Oil-Gas). Sadly my impression is in line with @duncan 's

  • edited November 9

    From what I can gather from Bentley's website, their marketing seems intentionally misleading, and missing the point of free software vs open source. I regard iTwinJS as crippleware for the following reasons:

    1. The core component that runs their backend is a closed binary blob.
    2. The schema used, or open data, is supposedly imodel. I can't seem to find a specification for it, and it seems to be basically produced only by Bentley and there the SDK is not freely available.
    3. Other supported formats in starting up an iModel are all also closed: "Source the project from an uploaded .dgn, .bim, .imodel, .dwg or .rvt file."
    4. If you don't want to use their closed backend, then you are limited to a static iModel snapshot, of which changes cannot be tracked. Change management and access control is vital for any digital twin: "An IFC database is like a photograph, whereas an IFC database combined with real-time data is like a movie." So if you want to build a change tracking system or any user access tools (which you would, for any practical project), then it is not free software and you need to follow the license.

    The harsh reality seems to be that despite the openwash marketing and the MIT licenses liberally sprinkled around the frontend code, it seems to me that it is impractical for any real work without vendor lock-in and Bentley-specific blob and data schema usage. It's reads like an open source plugin to a closed core.

    I have asked for further clarification here in the hopes that I am mistaken.

    CadGiruGorgiousRobJesusbillbitacovir
  • I think after a waiting time we should think about writing a short piece about open-washing.

    Ace
  • @duncan said:
    I think after a waiting time we should think about writing a short piece about open-washing.

    How cynical! I believe everything the marketing people tell me... LOL

  • So after some back-and-forth it seems as though my initial reactions were only half correct. The iModel schema is open source too, and supposedly there is a way to author it without proprietary software (though I still cannot find a cross-platform way with source code, and without signing up for the developer network... but supposedly it is possible). So the schema can in theory be developed in a collaborative manner and not just controlled by Bentley. In practice, Bentley is still the majority vendor by far so it might be tricky for this to happen though.

    The current conclusion is still that there is a little proprietary black box kernel that from the description from Bentley sounds like it would be a pretty tricky thing to replicate without much documentation. So until 1) Bentley changes their mind and opens it up, together with the necessary documentation or 2) someone reverse engineers it with enough practicality to be used in real life projects, I still personally interpret it as a closed core, open extension project.

    Nevertheless, I have invited them to consider the possibility of opening up that core and also collaborating with the OSArch community. Here's the link again to discussion for convenience: https://github.com/iTwin/itwinjs-core/discussions/1659

    JanF
  • @Moult sounds like they want to make a connection. What do you think about putting them together with someone here who can ask the right questions and get them to a monthly meetup? I can host as usual but we really need an infrastructure person to be in the room. What do you think? @Jesusbill makes sense?

  • @duncan I think it is a great topic for a meetup when things are mature, not sure if it's now or a bit more down the road

    duncanCadGiru
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